The man sentenced to six years in prison for orchestrating a massive sports autograph fraud ring is appealing his conviction.
According to a local news report, an attorney for 31-year-old Cliff Panezich filed a brief Monday in the Ohio Seventh District Court of Appeals, claiming his guilty plea was coerced.
Panezich, a former college and semi-pro baseball player was sentenced last spring to six years on numerous charges in connection with the sale of what Mahoning County prosecutors say was a seven-year scheme run out of Ohio and Las Vegas to produce and sell forged autographs on eBay. Prosecutors claim the fraud netted over $2 million from over 30,000 victims.
Eleven others involved in the scheme called “Operation Stolen Base” have also been sentenced, with penalties ranging from probation to prison time.
attorney states in the brief that his client “had his bail unlawfully increased, … his mother incarcerated and his privilege against self-incrimination repeatedly violated … in order to induce a guilty plea.”
Panezich’s bond jumped from $100,000 to $500,000, an amount his attorney labels “excessive” and “in retaliation for his decision to decline a plea offer.”
The brief states that Panezich’s mother Rose, who received three years probation for helping her son sell the fake merchandise, was held in jail until Panezich pleaded guilty.
The court filing indicates Panezich pleaded guilty only because he didn’t believe he’d be offered a fair trial.
Read the full story at Vindy.com.